George Rhodes, musical director for Sammy Davis Jr. for 30 years, died Wednesday after suffering a heart attack at his Los Angeles home. He was 66.
Rhodes became the first black musical director for a major network when he conducted and arranged the music for Davis' 1966 NBC series, "The Sammy Davis Jr. Show."
That same year, Rhodes arranged the music for the television special, "The Swinging World of Sammy Davis Jr.," which earned Davis an Emmy nomination.
Rhodes joined Davis as a pianist when Davis' Broadway show, "Mr. Wonderful," closed in 1955. His contract was for only three weeks, but the relationship lasted 30 years.
A Juilliard graduate, the Chicago-born Rhodes first hit the road in 1944 with blues singer Lil Green. He later performed with jazz greats Red Allen and J. C. Higgenbothan.
His credits include his own albums, "Real George" and "Sweet and Singing," and the musical arrangements for the movie, "Man Without Mercy." In 1978, he conducted the music for the play, "Stop the World--I Want to Get Off," which starred Davis.